Review: In ‘Christopher Robin,’ Winnie the Pooh and Friends Save the Day (And the Film)

christopher-robin-pooh-piglet

It’s a blustery day for Winnie the Pooh he tries to remind an overworked, stressed-out  grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) of what matters in Disney’s new film. Like Christopher himself, the movie takes a while to find its footing and start having fun, but this loving homage to Pooh, Piglet and his friends works its charm by the heartwarming end. (Don’t forget to stay seated for a funny mid-credits sequence.)

The animation is perfection: Instead of the smooth clean lines of the animated Disney films, Pooh and his pals resemble not only the scraggly original drawings for the A.A. Milne characters, but also the stuffed versions of them you probably had growing up.

Roo and Piglet now look like siblings instead of different species, but who’s complaining? They’re both adorable. When each of the characters first show up — nervous, excitable Piglet or irrepressibly bouncy Tigger — you want to reach into the film and hug them.

The voicework is, for the most part, dead-on, especially, actor Jim Cummings, who lovingly invokes the original voice of Pooh, Sterling Holloway. I wasn’t initially sold on Brad Garrett’s baritone for Eeyore, but his sad-eyed pronouncements are some of the funniest in the movie.

Although McGregor and Hayley Atwell  — who plays his lovely, if long-suffering wife, Evelyn — are wonderfully charming and likeable actors, even they can’t do much with the early scenes where Dad Needs to Lighten Up and Stop Working So Much. We’ve seen this scenario in so many films, like”Hook,” in which Peter Pan has become a no-fun workaday grown-up, that sitting through another “You’re missing your life!” wifely speech is a yawner. But, once we’re over that awkward bit of business, the film does finally sputter to life with the arrival of Pooh in London.

A melancholy Pooh can’t find his friends, but he does find Christopher, who’s working on the unenviable task of saving his entire company’s existence. Until Pooh upends his plans and they wind up back in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Despite the fact we can’t just ditch work and our Very Important Papers in real life, as Christopher becomes less and less dour, so does the movie.

It’s hard not to smile at the scene where McGregor fights a “Heffalump” to persuade Tigger, Kanga, Roo and everyone else that he’s really Christopher Robin.

The metaphors about work ruining your life are a bit heavy-handed (and, of course, wildly impractical), but, in the end, Pooh helps Christopher find just the right balance between work and play in a surprisingly satisfactory way.

By the time Pooh and company return to the city and unleash all kinds of chaos, the movie is finally firing on all cylinders.

“Christopher Robin” doesn’t manage the effortless charm or hilarious heights of “Paddington 2,” but it is does have a great big fuzzy heart.

This Pooh lover walked out (mostly) happy.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

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